The automatic cognate form assumption: evidence for the parasitic model of vocabulary development

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Hall, Christopher J (2002)

The Parasitic Hypothesis, formulated to account for early stages of vocabulary/L/development in second language learners, claims that on initial exposure/L/to a word, learners automatically exploit existing lexical material in the L1/L/or L2 in order to establish an initial memory representation. At the level of/L/phonological and orthographic form, it is claimed that significant overlaps/L/with existing forms, i.e. cognates, are automatically detected and new forms/L/are subordinately connected to them in the mental lexicon. In the study reported here, English nonwords overlapping with real words in Spanish (pseudocognates), together with noncognate nonwords, were presented to Spanish-speaking learners of English in a word familiarity task. Participants reported significantly higher levels of familiarity with the pseudocognates and showed greater consistency in providing translations for them. These results, together with measures of the degree of overlap between nonword stimuli and translations, were interpreted as evidence for the automatic use of cognates in early word learning.
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